PHE daily wagers on collision course with Govt over pending wages, regularisation

CEs hopeful of ending deadlock

Avtar Bhat
JAMMU, May 20: Fed up with Government’s apathy which seems is totally unconcerned towards their plight, thousands of agitating Public Health Engineering (PHE) Department daily wagers in the State are left with no option but to intensify their ongoing agitation to seek justice for themselves.
Thousands of daily wagers in the Department, who see their future bleak, have hit the streets throughout the State since September last year demanding their regularization and release of pending wages of last five years. Despite being the backbone of the Department it seems that the Government is not concerned for these hapless workers as it has failed to take drastic steps in dispensation of justice to them. Left with no alternative, this attitude of the Government has forced them to intensify the agitation now.
According to sources, there are about 33,000 daily wagers working in PHE Department for last over two decades and Government till date has failed to regularise them despite the fact that from time to time the Government had framed policies for regularisation of temporary employees working in its various departments. Earlier a criteria was framed by the Government that the temporary employees as well as daily wagers working in various Government departments will be regularized after seven years of their regular service but this formula too was not applied to these hapless workers who are the main pillars of the Department, sources added.
Sources said the previous BJP -PDP coalition led by Mehbooba Mufti had also decided to regularize these daily wagers working in various departments whose number at that time was stated to be about 60,000. But after scrutiny it was stated that the number of such daily wagers is about one lakh. Out of them there are 33,000 daily wagers in PHE Department alone which comes under essential services also, sources added.
They said that previous Government in 2017 announced regularisation of daily wagers under SRO 520 and sought the report from all Heads of Departments urging them to furnish the names of the daily wagers with treasury vouchers of wages drawn by them and their service record etc. However, over the passage of one and a half year now no headway has been made in this regard by the Government. Not to speak of regularization, these hapless employees have not been paid their wages for last five years with the result majority of them are at the verge of starvation.
Fed up with Government’s apathy, these daily wagers have launched agitation since September 7 last year for justice holding protest demonstration at district headquarters all over the State. The problem has taken the ugly turn with the issuance of recent order by the District Development Commissioner Jammu, asking the officers of the concerned departments to take action against the agitating daily wagers and ensure that they remain present during their duty hours as public work has suffered due to their agitation in Government offices.
Expressing serious concern over such type of attitude of administration towards their plight of daily wagers who have not been paid their wages for last five years and whose regularization case is pending in the highest echelons of the Government, said Tanveer Hussian State president, Daily Wagers Association which is spearheading the ongoing agitation terming the order as highhandedness on the part of authorities to harass the poor workers.
He said that the daily wagers are without wages for last five years and how can they work when they have nothing to feed their families. Terming it a criminal negligence of the Government, he said many families are at the verge of starvation and some are unable to send their children to school as they have no money to bear their expenses. “Instead of giving justice to us, the district administration has called for punitive action which is unfortunate on their part”, he added.
Saying SRO 520 has also many lacunas, he said that even it is discriminative as the salary under the SRO has been fixed on consolidated basis. Under this SRO, the salary has been fixed on consolidated basis as Rs 10,000 for those daily wagers who had completed 10 years service and Rs 15,000 as consolidated pay for those daily wagers who have completed 15 years service. This is too a discriminative decision as after working for over two decades we will not be given the benefit which the other Government employees are given, he added.
He said even under this SRO also not a single daily wager was regularised till date. This shows that the Government was playing truant with us, he added. Pinning high hopes in the present Government led by Governor Satya Pal Malik, Tanveer sought his intervention in the matter so that the hapless daily wagers get the justice.
He said “we even knocked the doors of Union Government and held a dharna at Jantar Mantar New Delhi in April this year but to no avail.
Shiv Narayan Singh president of the Association for Kathua district asked that how long this drama will go. The authorities are totally unmoved. “The blue eyed boys of the officers who too are also working on daily wage basis get their wages in time while we have been ignored. We see our future bleak in the Department as majority of daily wagers have now turned overage and can’t work any where”, he added.
The SRO 520 issued in September 2017 has also been put into cold storage and nothing was done under it, he said.
However, when contacted, Chief Engineer PHE, Jammu Ashok Gandotra said that 50 percent wages of daily wagers have been released. He said the budget has been submitted to the higher ups for payment of the backlog wages also. The files of the daily wagers under SRO 520 have been submitted to higher ups for regularization and most probably the orders will be issued soon, he added.
He said the Government has framed a Committee under the chairmanship of Rohit Kansal, Principal Secretary Planning with the Commissioner/ Secretaries of other departments as members on regularization of daily wagers. He said alone in Jammu there are 22000 daily wagers in PHE whose papers have been submitted to higher authorities in Civil Secretariat.
Similar were the views of CE PHE Kashmir, Abdul Wahid who said that there are over 10,000 daily wagers in PHE Department in the Valley and their papers have been submitted to higher ups for regularization.